International Pizza Expo 2018
March 22, 2018
Hello from the Pizza Expo!
We traveled to Las Vegas this week for an excursion dedicated to paying tribute to the wonderful delicious creation known as pizza! Chefs, companies, and suppliers from across the world gather here to showcase their talents and creative juices. It makes for a very saucy affair!
First off, one of the biggest differences between the Pizza Expo and other trade shows we have attended is the open sharing of knowledge and the genuine desire to establish good relations among competitors. Every chef is an artist, and they all love what they do. Independent pizza stores across the US may normally be competitors; this week, however, they come together as fellow pizza enthusiasts. At first glance, it appears they only share knowledge with each other since they may not directly compete in the same area. Upon deeper observation, everyone here is working to make the best pizza they can, while helping others do the same.
The numerous styles of pizza (ranging from the thin crust New York style to the deep dish Detroit Style made in a heavy square pan) provide options to please any pizza lover. However, one thing everyone can agree on is the foundation of a great pizza is a delicious crust. This past Monday, I attended a seminar titled “Is 24 Hours Enough? — Understanding Fermentation and Factors Affecting Dough” taught by dough masters Peter Reinhart, Bill Weekley, and Tom Lehmann.
Peter Reinhart is a personal dough hero of mine; I have basked in the wisdom of his recipes and anecdotes for several years, starting when I first bought a copy of his book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. With his guidance, I’ve been able to experiment with my own complex bread, bagel, and pizza dough recipes. Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann and Bill Weekley are equally as knowledgeable about the complexity of creating delicious dough. Lehmann has a website dedicated to the art of crafting pizza, while Weekley is a member of the Doughminators, a part of the General Mills Food Service Team that assists pizza companies with the development of of a signature crust.
The panel was a crash course in fermentation, with the three men discussing the importance of time and temperature when fermenting pizza dough. They touched on how flour choice can have an effect on the fermentation process and gluten content, and debated whether or not regional water has an effect on dough flavor and consistency (it turns out it doesn’t). New York may have arguably the best bagels and pizza crusts, but it’s not because of the water; it’s because of the love and dedication they put towards making the best doughs for bread products and pizza.
I hope to be able to return to the Pizza Expo next year to learn more about the art of making a perfect pizza, and see what the experts have come up with over the coming months!